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7 ideas for cross-promotion with other small businesses

With shrinking budgets for small businesses, cross-promotion is an age old method professionals use to spread word about their company. There are 7 methods that can expand your reach ranging from print to web cross-promotion, many at no cost at all.

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Spreading word about your business

Getting the word out about your small business takes a lot of work. You start out by enlisting the help of close friends, family members, and current and previous business associates. But soon that isn’t enough to get you to your end goal—a solid professional reputation and an increased profit. While there are thousands of ways to advertise your business, there are often monetary constraints for small business pros. Even with these constraints and limitations, small businesses can effectively market their brands through cross-promotion with other, complementary small businesses.

Print collateral

Display print collateral – One of the simplest ways to cross-promote is by displaying or distributing print collateral—brochures, calendars, business cards, and flyers—in a waiting room, next to the cash register, or mailed with statements, invoices, or business correspondence. When you’ve found the right business—or several businesses—to pair with, trade printed material. This will ensure that your business is made visible to potential customers, customers that would ultimately benefit from your products or services. If you’re looking for a low-friction way of cross-promoting your brand, this is it.

Events

Co-sponsor an event – This will allow you to cut your event costs in half, and it ensures you get the other company’s audience and customers in attendance, which will only benefit your company’s marketing efforts and outreach. Depending on the nature of your business, you can choose to hold a local, national, or even online event geared toward your target audience. Whichever you choose, make sure all companies with which you’re cross-promoting have equal visibility. This will strengthen your professional relationships now so they can still be of use to you in the future.

Incentives

Start a referral program – Offer discounts or rewards for those customers who refer business to your partner’s store and vice versa. This is a fantastic way to create a network of consumers. Remember, again, this only works if you cross-promote a complementary business rather than a competing one. The latter is rarely a good idea. A referral program will encourage your customers to spread the word about your business and your cross-promotion partner’s business. Everyone benefits.

Mailers

Swap mailing lists – While this effort obviously gives you even more potential customers, the ethics of such an act continues to be debated. After all, haven’t we all been annoyed when we’ve discovered a company has sold or traded our information? Instead of swapping all the information on your mailing lists, you can provide your current customers and clients the option of being contacted by a partner or affiliate. Alternatively, featuring a peripheral business to yours on mailers to your clients while being featured on mailers to their clients is a common method for this type of swap. This will keep your professional reputation unsoiled and give you the opportunity to lengthen your own mailing list.

Web efforts

Trade online content – While this type of cross-promotion requires a lot of valuable time in creating the content, it’s one of the most beneficial ways to market your brand on a small budget—or even if you have a large budget, for that matter. Write a guest blog post, general website content, or informative, on-topic articles. This online content can help establish your reputation as being knowledgeable in your field or industry. If you can write content that is informative and valuable, you’ll have a stream of users checking out your site, too. The challenge here is in finding like partners that would mutually benefit.

Seminars

Offer a workshop or educational class – You and your cross-promotion partner can hold an educational workshop or class that’s related to your industry. Each of you—or a representative of your business—should speak or teach a class, but also include other guest speakers or teachers. The more valuable information you provide to the attendees, the more in-demand your workshop or class will be. Having as many influential “experts” involved will only increase the hype of your educational event.

Co-office

Share valuable office space – Just as tax accountants temporarily take up residence in major grocery stores during tax season, consider sharing valuable office space with your partner, and vice versa. It can be a small office, booth, or even right outside the front door. Hand out brochures, business cards, and be available to answer questions or to pass out free samples. This method can be more effective than just having your partner display your print collateral, because your potential customers can put a face to a brand, which makes your business more relatable and personable. It doesn’t matter if you set up one of your employees there permanently or you only use some space a few times a month, this is a great way to network with your target audience.

Cross-promotion is an easy way to market your business directly to the right consumers and while sticking to your marketing budget. Partnering with a complementary business expands your professional outreach, betters your reputation in your industry, and puts you in contact with the right people at the right time. Consider your cross-promotion options carefully and be selective about potential partners, as the wrong partner can have as much of an impact on your business as the right one.

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Steve Martin

    March 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    All great, inexpensive ideas for small business owners! Great article!

  2. Maria Eves

    April 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    7 ideas for cross-promotion with other small businesses hey thanks for that Charlene…really truly a great insight to the many ways..

  3. Pingback: 3 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas to Reach A Large Local Audience

  4. Pingback: Offices to let near Brinnington - Pear Mill

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Business Marketing

Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Some companies are making sure their websites have more accessibility, and are creating design tools that help simplify the process for other designers.

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accessibility design

In August, The American Genius reported that Domino’s Pizza had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case it had lost in the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the court ruled that the pizza chain was required to improve the accessibility on their website to blind and visually impaired users.

Last month, SCOTUS declined to hear the case, maintaining the precedent that the standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply not only to brick-and-mortar business locations, but also to websites.

The decision was a major win for disability rights advocates, who rightly pointed out that in the modern, internet-based age, being unable to access the same websites and apps that sighted people use would be a major impediment for people who are blind or visually impaired. Said Christopher Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

Although legislators have yet to set legal standards for website accessibility, the Domino’s case makes it clear that it’s time for businesses to start strategizing about making their websites accessible to all users.

Many companies worry that revamping websites for accessibility will be too costly, too difficult, or just too confusing given the lack of legal standards. However, some forward-thinking companies are going out of their way to not only make their websites more accessible, but to create design tools that could help simplify the process for other designers.

A great example is Stripe.

If you have an online business, you may already be using Stripe to receive payments. Designers Daryl Koopersmith and Wilson Miner take to the Stripe blog to detail their quest to find the perfect and most accessible color palette for Stripe products and sites.

Color plays into accessibility for visually impaired users because certain color contrasts are easier to see than others. But making Stripe more accessible wasn’t as simple as just picking paint swatches. Stripe wanted to increase accessibility while also staying true to the colors already associated with their brand.

Our perception of color is quite subjective; we often instinctively have strong opinions about which colors go well together and which clash. To make matters even more complicated, existing color models can be confusing because there is often a difference between how a computer mathematically categorizes a color and how our eyes perceive them.

Koopersmith and Miner give the example that if the human eye compares a blue and a yellow that have the same mathematical “lightness,” we will still perceive the yellow as the lighter color.

To achieve their goal, Koopersmith and Miner created new software that would adjust colors based on human perception and would generate “real-time feedback about accessibility.” In this way, the designers were able to adjust Stripe’s pre-existing brand colors to increase accessibility without losing the vibrancy and character of the original colors.

Not every company can afford to hire innovative designers like Koopersmith and Miner to create new tools every time there is an accessibility challenge. But Stripe’s project shows gives us reason to be optimistic that improving accessibility will become steadily more … well … accessible!

Disabilities rights advocates and designers can work synergistically to set standards for accessibility and create comprehensive tools to achieve those standards. In our highly visual age, it’s important to ensure that no one is left behind because of a visual impairment.

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Business Marketing

10 inspirational print brochure examples

We believe that print is nowhere near dead, it is just changing as things go digital, and only the best stand out.

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Below are 10 inspirational print brochure examples that show print is not only alive and kicking, but when infused with a bit of creativity, can make an enormous impression. Gone are the days of horrid clip art and walls of text that overwhelm. Clean typography and design are the name of the game, and added flair can go a long way. Here are some ideas to get you started, click any of the images below to see more photos of each campaign and to dig deeper:

Craft Beer Field Guide

With this fold up brochure guiding Madison’s Craft Beer Week attendees, a vintage vibe is created through color and typography choices, with an emphasis on function and ease of reading. The guide is so enchanting, it is likely that most attendees kept the brochures, a dream for any designer or marketing team!

Italian Loft Brochure

In this Italian Loft Brochure, a classic Tiffany & Co styled blue and chocolate brown highlight the features of this luxury loft community, and is presented in a beautiful, heavyweight cardstock cover that keeps all additional papers that come along with tours. It’s more than just the brochure’s design, it’s the presentation, simplicity, and choice of materials that is eye catching about this print brochure.

Campaign for Freedom

Expressing the dire situation in North Korea, this campaign brochure uses simple to digest infographics and keeps to four colors – black, white, red, and yellow. It is effective for sticking to the point and using bold graphics.

Gourmet Natural Foods

Retailers often go overboard either by offering too many walls of words and facts, or by trying to be clever. Instead, this company’s design focuses on the simple ingredients that goes along with their streamlined, organic-looking containers. This brochure makes you want to go start eating hippie food, even if you’re a cow eater, just because it’s so aesthetically pleasing!

Graphic Designer Portfolio

When a seasoned graphic designer shows off, you can be sure that their presentation will never be an aged headshot of them with bullet points of their accomplishments. No, graphic designers show instead of tell, as below:

Typefamily Brochure

When introducing a typefamily to the world, a designer can choose to slap up a website, or go the traditional, and more elegant route of printing a type booklet explaining the type and giving buyers of the typefamily (font) a closer look at what they are buying. Brilliant.

Yahoo! Brochure

Yahoo’s brochure is a reminder that simple design elements can go a long way – a folding tab, white space, ditching clip art, and keeping consistency between pages all work in harmony to create a quality print brochure.

Antique News Format

In a very clever move, this commercial and residential space is being sold in the form of a large, folding antique- looking newspaper, complete with appropriate fonts and an antique layout, with surprisingly sharp and never cheesy images.

Architect’s Timeline and Story

Promoting an architect’s impressive timeline and story, this print campaign shows the power of red, black and white, making a dramatic impression at a quick glance. Using high quality photography and traditional movie poster tricks, the campaign is stunning.

Our Favorite: Lennar’s Old School Fun

Lennar’s new “Spencer’s Crossing” community brochures got a touch of old school, making the brochure a game that anyone can play. It’s more than a gimmick, it is consistent with their collateral that appeals to the youthful nature of the product and area.

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Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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